Today's Veterinary Business

JUN 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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Page 53 of 77

44 Today's Veterinary Business Community model is bound by finite hours, is trapped by brick and mortar, and is burning out too many colleagues. This new technology-enabled mod- el will not replace vets and teams, but it will augment and support them to provide a collaborative, in- formation-rich and personalized, re- lationship-centered practice. A fully digitized veterinary experience. Let's zoom in. Pre-appointment or intake currently goes something like this: Ms. Smith, a member of PetGen — these clients often prefer to text or schedule an appointment online — calls to make an appointment with Dr. Lester because Fluffy is itchy. My receptionist happily an- swers the phone and questions Ms. Smith about her pet, her pet's name and the presenting complaint, and the appointment is scheduled for the next morning. When she arrives, Ms. Smith is warmly greeted by my receptionist, who once again learns that this is Ms. Smith, her pet's name is Fluffy and Fluffy is itchy. Eventu- ally, Ms. Smith and Fluffy are shown into an exam room, where my veter- inary nurse greets Ms. Smith, learns that her pet's name is Fluffy and that Fluffy is itchy. Next, Dr. Lester enters the exam room and … you get it. There's got to be a better way. If Ms. Smith were to receive a text message the night before her appointment, she would willingly respond. The text reminder is at once personable and information- al. It walks Ms. Smith through an algorithm that gathers a complete personalized history and perhaps offers the option to upload a picture of Fluffy. When Ms. Smith arrives the next morning she goes directly to the exam room, where a good portion of the medical record is already completed. Consequently, in-hospital time is reduced dramati- cally, compliance increases, average transactions go up, and most impor- tantly, Fluffy receives better care. Fortunately, this technology exists today and is continually re- fined. Where else can we employ technology to support and augment the veteri- nary team? We're limited only by our imagination and our willing- ness to change. The PetGen Colleague A recent Merck wellness survey disclosed that a devastatingly low 24 percent of our PetGen doctor colleagues endorse our profession. They, too, have come to expect the personalization, efficiencies and communication abilities of tech- nology. We can better support our veterinary teams by embracing these technologies, which allow a more digital and personalized rela- tionship with the consumer while guarding our free time. Tech can help us set the boundaries neces- sary to provide better balance. Embracing a digitized client/ veterinary team relationship can better support us thanks to ad- vancements like 24/7 outsourced triage services, text communica- tion and the like. This way, we help more pets in less time and enjoy better compliance. In short, our teams work smarter, not harder. Anecdotally, as a proud father of two remarkable young wom- en — one a member of PetGen, the other in Gen Z — I predict the upcoming Gen Z will be equally or perhaps even more apt to care for their pets' wellness and happiness than their millennial counterparts. When we adapt to best communi- cate with PetGen and Z, our profes- sion will continue to thrive. PetGen is the new sheriff in town — a digitally-native sheriff who will insist on communicating differently, disrupting client flows, setting boundaries, and educating clients in a dramatically different and better way. Community CREATIVE DISRUPTION hours or conditions to be affected. Veterinary practices might absorb the costs or pass them along to the pet owner, and there might be pres- sure to reduce staffing. How all this will affect operations, the mood at practices or internal relations is any- one's guess. A pressing question will be the effect on practices if the union decides to strike or protest when bargaining is unsuc- cessful. We might soon see pickets and protesters outside of U.S. small animal clinics. So far, organized veterinary medicine has been cautious regarding the National Veterinary Professionals Union, but this may change as the threat of wide- spread unionization or strikes and a string of elections and organizing activities dominate the landscape. The effort has had relatively little visibility, but this could change with the longshoremen's engage- ment and resources. Meanwhile, some veterinarians fear that changing a veterinary technician's title to registered vet- erinary nurse will raise salaries, which in turn could be absorbed by the practice or passed on to clients. Veterinary nurse advocates explain that the legislation doesn't do this and that salaries will rise only if the practice performs better when it has more highly valued profes- sional staff serving pet owners. Some veterinary groups favor the title "registered veterinary nurse," and some are neutral. As far as NAVTA is aware, none are opposed. The Veterinary Nurse Initiative's goals are to gain the endorsement of local, state and national veterinary associations as well as vet tech programs. Politics & Policy columnist Mark Cushing serves as legislative consultant to the Vet- erinary Nurse Initiative. He is founding partner of the Animal Policy Group and a for- mer litigator. He serves on the Today's Veterinary Business editorial advisory board. Key questions in both initiatives are whether clinic morale and team- work would be affected positively or negatively. Would veterinarians embrace registered veterinary nurses as partners in the delivery of health care services to pets? Would union organizing activities and the looming presence of the longshore- men's union permanently alter the internal dynamics of veterinary practices, or would a new normal be achieved? Would pet owners experience either change as driving up the price of veterinary services? The sooner the animal health profession actually has a public discussion — preferably a debate — about these issues, the better. I know that the Veterinary Nurse Initiative has participated in many public and industry forums, includ- ing legislative hearings, but we've yet to see the same from the union. Let's hope the debate starts soon. What's Next? Both initiatives aim to address longstanding issues in the vet- erinary marketplace concerning career tracks, economics and the morale of non-DVM professionals. Veterinary practice owners are challenged by staff turnover. A title upgrade and national standardiza- tion for registered veterinary nurs- es could increase client confidence and engagement, improve utiliza- tion of pet health care services, and grow practice revenues. This could lead to higher compensation and less turnover. Union advocates might claim that higher wages and better working conditions would reduce turnover and create a longer career track. Many working conditions and employee protections already are mandated by federal and state law, so it is unclear which addition- al mandates would be pursued through bargaining. Union advocates might claim that higher wages and better working conditions would reduce turnover and create a longer career track. Continued from Page 42 Creative Disruption columnist Dr. Bob Lester is chief medical officer of WellHaven Pet Health and a founding member of Banfield Pet Hospital and the Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine. He serves on the North American Veteri- nary Community board of directors.

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